Black Earth Meats closes

Facing a lawsuit from the Village of Black Earth, Black Earth Meats, an organic meat processor with 26 employees, will close today after losing its loan with the Bank of New Glarus. The company, which provided meat to restaurants and retailers and bought animals from more than 200 farmers in Wisconsin and northern Illinois, was one of the few slaughterhouses in the country to be USDA-inspected, certified organic, and Animal Welfare Approved for its humane treatment of animals.

But Black Earth residents didn’t see things that way, and the village felt the business had grown too big for its facility. The meat processor was allowed to operate the slaughterhouse in the village as long as it didn’t expand beyond its footprint, which had been in place since 1973. The company’s annual sales ranged from $6 million to $9 million, according to reports.

The current owners purchased the struggling, small-scale butcher shop business in 2008, and as its success as a slaughterhouse grew, so did complaints of smells and other nuisance issues. The village board wanted the business to relocate elsewhere.

On July 2, owner Bartlett Durand filed a countersuit against the village, asking for $5.3 million in damages. Black Earth Meats also owns Conscious Carnivore, a retail outlet in Shorewood Hills. That business will remain open.